Now that we’re halfway through the 2017 Spring Season, and we’re getting closer and closer to a release of dirt racing, once again I thought I would share some thoughts as we continue to move forward into 2017. Below I’ll give a quick recap on some things from the first half of the season that have stood out to me, and then I’ll give a tentative plan for when dirt finally comes to SARA competition.
So far this season, we’ve seen some familiar names reach victory lane across all four divisions. Bill Martin, Joe Schaffer Jr., David Krikorian, Tim Bills, Derek Robinson, myself, and add Trevor Edwards to this list of SARA veterans who have all picked up a win this season. Meanwhile a new class of winners have added their names as we already have seven new SARA winners this season. Dave Bodio, Seth DeMerchant, Josh Berry, Jordan Erickson, Richie Davidowitz, Matt Kocher and Jeremy Allen all grabbed their first career wins. This kind of diversity shows the amount of talent that we have in this league, and it’s been nice to see a new crop of drivers come in with a chance to run up front each week.
In the Dunleavy’s Modified Series, Bill Martin has been the car to beat each week, with three victories already to his name and a solid points lead at the halfway break. This is no surprise and Bill is often contending for wins, but I think it will be a tough task for anyone else to knock him off the top spot. Dave Bodio is the only new winner in the Modified division with a strong run at USA. Cayden Lapcevich is another name that I’ll be keeping an eye on as the top rookie contender this season with plenty of strong runs so far, so I look forward to see how the rest of his season goes.
The veterans have had a handle on the Callaway Investments Sportsman Series so far, with four vets picking up wins in the series. Travis Warling has held the points lead for a number of weeks before the first drop race was added, but this doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Travis and I had plenty of battles back when the Legends cars were a featured SARA division and I’ve seen how good he can be (especially on the road courses where he excels), but it’s been nice to see him have some better luck and strong runs in the Street Stocks now as well, which puts him currently 3rd in points. The defending champ Trevor Edwards leads the standings but I’m trying to keep him on his toes just 7 points back. Jake Watson is the top newcomer in the series so far, after running some last season and having some tough runs, but he’s turned it around this season and is having a solid season so far.
Speaking of Trevor Edwards once again, he just finished up the HidesPride.com Southern Series as the champion, adding his 4th career SARA championship. This series was a mini-season that we added to be a placeholder while we waited for dirt to arrive, and I learned some interesting things while running and different cars in double features each night. The top thing I noticed was how different the track was from Race 1 to Race 2 each night, and a lot of the second features developed the outside groove much earlier which made for some good racing. Seven different drivers ran a full points schedule, and four different drivers were able to add their first career SARA wins during the season. While this was a one-off series, it certainly did it’s job of holding us over on Wednesday nights for a while.
The Button Box Shop Super Series has had it’s ups and downs this season already, but one thing for sure is the competition is tougher than ever. We’ve had five different winners in six races, including three rookies earning a win in the series. Derek Robinson is the only repeat winner so far, and because of those strong runs he will be leading the series in the second half of the season as the points leader. Newcomer Richie Davidowitz looks to be his toughest competition so far however, as he sits 2nd in points just 11 points back, and while he hasn’t been to victory lane in the SLM series yet, Richie already looks to be a title contender in his first season with us. Another new name that’s been strong each race so far is Matt Kocher who was able to already grab a win, and despite missing a couple weeks, with the help of drop races he could be a second rookie to join the championship battle by seasons end. I’ll thrown in a third new guy thats shown speed, which is Daniel Pope, and although we took a win away from him in Week 1 from a jumped start, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he redeemed himself by the end of the season. While the rookies are showing their strength early, don’t count out other top SARA regulars including David Krikorian, Trevor Edwards, Tim Bills, and Derek Holzhausen as guys who could go on a tear at any point and be right there in the thick of things by the end of the season. We’re privileged to have a number of great sponsors supporting this division, and I’m excited for the second half of the season and think we’ll have some great racing on Thursday nights.
SARA Dirt Plans
Now what you’re really here for… dirt. From now until March 29th, there will be no racing on Wednesday nights as any official SARA series. But once dirt arrives, yes, SARA is 100% going to be adding a dirt series, or two, to our division lineup.
We will NOT be jumping into an official season of dirt racing immediately. Every other league on iRacing is adding dirt as well, and I’m sure 95% of them will be running races immediately and some leagues are already planning major events. Sure this all sounds great.. dirt coming to iRacing is certainly exciting for everyone. But I don’t think that jumping into dirt racing will be the best thing for us when it’s released. This will be a whole new form of racing, new cars, new tracks, new driving styles, new methods of throttle and brake control, new methods of car control, new race craft, new everything, and I think there will be a whole new learning curve… Sure, some of you will pick it up easily and be great right away, but for some who aren’t familiar with dirt racing, I think there will be some learning to do. I’d like to think that on the night it’s released we could jump into a race and put on a hell of a show, cause I know how good our drivers can be. But I also know that the chances of that happening aren’t that high, just being realistic here.
So.. here’s the plan for dirt for March 29th (the current target release date), and for beyond: Wednesday nights will become Dirt Test Nights to start with. Once released, we will take our time by running multiple test sessions each Wednesday night for the remainder of the 2017 Spring Season with the goal being to get some laps in with each car, each track, to see what combination will put on the best racing for the league and drivers, and for all of our drivers to have time to learn and test before we launch a full series. We’re going into this open minded, with no set plans for which cars or schedule will be put into place, and we’ll use this testing period to make a better determination on that when the time comes.
At this time, it looks like this is what iRacing will release for it’s dirt racing lineup:
Dirt 410 Sprint Car
Dirt 360 Sprint Car
Dirt 305 Sprint Car
Dirt Super Late Model
Dirt Pro Late Model
Dirt Limited Late Model
Dirt Street Stock
Williams Grove Speedway
Volusia Speedway Park
And we may also be getting a dirt version of USA, and the Legends car, but I don’t know if they’ve been 100% confirmed yet, and even if they are released I’m not sure yet if we’ll focus on either of those two pieces of content, but we’ll see. However we’ll definitely plan on testing most of the other car and track combinations during our test nights.
In addition to testing the cars and tracks, we’ll also try testing out some race formats and sessions, again to see what will work best for the league. Clay Snider has come up with a spreadsheet formula that will determine lineups for Heats, a C-Main, B-Main and the feature, but we may also try out some different formats as alternatives. Testing of these formats will allow us to see how long each of these sessions will take. With dirt features being relatively short, we’re hoping that we can narrow down a format that will run smooth and won’t take up a lot of time, that way we can run two divisions on the same night.
So while Wednesday’s will serve as our dedicated formal testing night to start with, it’s highly likely that we’ll be putting up additional sessions as well, whether it’s on weekends or on other nights before/after our normal asphalt racing. We’ve raced on asphalt season after season for years now, so we’ve got plenty of data and laps on track to continue running those series without any hiccups. But we feel that it’s extremely important to gather up some data and run plenty of laps on dirt before jumping into anything too quick, so we can make the best decisions for the league when it comes time to choose what series to create.
Another thing we’ll be doing with dirt, is within the next week or two, we’ll be sending out a signup form that drivers will need to fill out to be a part of our dirt testing. This will only be available to current league members, which means for these test sessions we will not be adding any new drivers to the league. I’m assuming that there will be a fairly large interest in this when the time comes, so based on how much interest is shown, we may even limit testing to a specific number of drivers and limit it at that. If we have too many cars, it could become an issue in truly experimenting and testing certain combinations and conditions, but if we limit it to a specific group that confirms they can show up each week, we may get better feedback and data. I’ll wait to make a decision on this for sure until I see how much interest we get.
So to summarize, we’ll be testing Dirt on Wednesday nights for the rest of the 2017 Spring Season. As we get closer to a release date, we’ll provide more details and a full test schedule for Dirt Test Night. Then as we prepare for the 2017 Summer Season, we’ll go all-in with adding a full dirt series to our full lineup, and we’ll continue to be the top short track league on iRacing.
Stay tuned, more info coming #soon.